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What Is BIM in Construction?

If you’ve found yourself here, you might have recently been wondering, “what is BIM in construction?” Fortunately, we have the answer. 

BIM stands for Building Information Modeling. It’s an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure. BIM in construction is the use of digital 3D models during the construction process.


Building Information Modeling (BIM) in construction is an intelligent 3D model-based process helps AEC professionals 

According to the U.S. National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee, a Building Information Model “is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.”

BIM has been widely used in architecture and engineering for more than twenty years, but the use of BIM in construction has only begun to gain momentum in the past five. BIM collaboration software now makes it easy to put the benefits of BIM to work in construction by putting models into the hands of the entire project team in a coordinated fashion to accelerate reviews and identify and resolve clashes earlier.

The History of BIM in Construction

Scaled models of buildings have existed for at least as long as humans have been planning anything more ambitious than a mud hut–and maybe even longer than that. Children in indigenous cultures have been observed to build miniature versions of their communities’ structures as a form of play, which helps them develop the skills they’ll use later to participate in construction.

For most of the 20th century, complex building projects were often built first as scale models, the pride and joy of many an architect’s office. They helped designers visualize the project and identify problems and obstacles to overcome during the design phase, and assisted owners in understanding what their final product might look like. Though expensive and time-consuming to construct, physical models were valuable in helping to avoid costly mistakes.

A digital “building model” was first used in the 1980s in the construction of London’s Heathrow Airport, at the time one of the world’s most complex and cutting-edge air transportation facilities. The terms “Building Information Model” and “Building Information Modeling” came into popular use in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Autodesk pioneered the technology in its modern form and, in 2002, published a white paper titled “Building Information Modeling” that helped to spread both the technology and the use of the terms “BIM” and “Building Information Model.”

For years, BIM was used by architects and engineers, primarily to replace digital scaled models and enable more detailed and flexible visualizations of plans. It had the benefits of being cheaper, faster, more detailed, and easier to modify.

Until recently, however, the benefits of BIM were largely unavailable to the construction industry, which continued to use paper drawings and 2D files well into the 21st century and, by many companies, still today.

But AutodeskBIM 360 provides a new way of managing Building Information Models to meet the needs of construction.

What Is the Role of BIM in Construction?


BIM in construction allows GCs, subs, and owners to visualize the intent of 2D plans, and more...

The use of BIM in construction provides substantial benefits to GCs, subs, and owners. Beyond the simple advantage of being able to visualize the intent of 2D plans, some of the benefits of BIM in construction include:

  • Better collaboration and communication
  • Model-based cost estimation
  • Project visualization
  • Clash detection
  • Reduced cost
  • Mitigated risk
  • Improved scheduling
  • Increased productivity
  • Easier and more accurate prefab
  • Safer sites
  • Smoother handovers

BIM 360 connects BIM data and 3D models into construction management workflows to ensure that everyone has the latest plans and updates, to share information, and to notify the right people when clashes and issues are detected or change orders made.

In the field, workers use mobile devices to access 3D models while on the job. This allows them to visualize the finished product while standing in its eventual location, and to see how it interacts with current conditions. It also allows workers to drill down to visualize details in context, so they can see how a pipe must be positioned to make room for other components, for instance.


In the field, workers use mobile devices to access 3D models while on the job

With BIM 360, Building Information Modeling also makes it possible for architects and engineers to easily communicate the exact intent of 2D plans, by allowing contractors and subs to view the 2D plans alongside the 3D models.

While BIM is most often associated with 3D models, many companies now utilize 4D, 5D, and 6D modeling to manage important data that impacts Schedule and Budget.

4D shows how the project will develop sequentially, including information such as lead times and how long installations are expected to take. This aids in detecting scheduling issues ahead of time and improving the predictability and performance of the schedule.

5D shows how costs impact the project over time. This helps teams design and budget, as well as manage costs over time during the project.


BIM in construction has many benefits, including the ability to help teams design, budget, and manage project costs over time

6D adds the operational element, to help clients understand the whole life cycle asset planning and management. This drives better business outcomes and can improve customer satisfaction.


Another huge benefit of BIM in construction is giving clients insight into the project lifecycle